This is Pat Rowland's, UNISON Scotland, speech at Scottish Labour Party Conference on Early Education and childcare.
"Early Education and childcare has become a political football over the years with publicly provided provision becoming a hostage to fortune at the whim of councils trying to manage SNP and Tory cuts to Local Authorities.
Early years establishments follow education standards.
The mix of private and publicly funded childcare doesn't work.
The publicly funded provision employs highly qualified professionals in the field whereas private provision has first of all to make a profit at the expense of lower wages, qualified staff with support workers and sometimes much poorer quality.
High quality childcare is imperative to enable women to reach their potential and ensure their independence.
The challenge document speaks about affordable childcare.
Affordability to one is unaffordable to many. Affordability smells of means testing and discrimination. This must be addressed.
I visited Denmark on a research visit into childcare provision a number of years ago, where 95% of children accessed childcare of some form.
The childcare is state funded and all staff must be qualified pedagogues in the childcare field. – there is a choice of provision – nursery schools, day nurseries, family centres and child minders. There was adequate provision for out of school care as part of this.
This innovation was already being implemented in the Labour authority I work in, where I managed what was then called a family centre.
With highly qualified and caring staff. There was a nursery for under threes, early education for 3-5years, childminders attached to the centre, with children placed from the waiting list, who were given support and training, parent & toddler group,out of school care parents groups, youth club.
The provision was initially free and enabled vulnerable women, when ready, to take up employment and gain some self respect and independence.
The service was open to all parents and children regardless of back ground so there was no stigma in using the services.
Over the years these services were severely eroded creating again the inequality of lack of affordability
as the already affected low paid women couldn’t afford to work because of the high costs of private childcare.
We need to get back to addressing inequalities in our society.
We need to work towards a range of free, local authority provided and publicly funded education and childcare that is staffed by highly qualified professionals in their field who are given the remuneration and status that is their due.
This would ensure that all children are equally equipped to reach their potential.
This could be funded by a small increase in council tax and for large companies and multinationals paying the tax which is due.